Day’Ron Sharpe Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Day’ron Sharpe was the 12th-ranked recruit in the 2020 high school class[1].

After leading South Central High School to a state title in North Carolina as a junior by averaging 16.5 points and 10.7 rebounds per game[2], the six-foot-10 center transferred to powerhouse Montverde Academy for his senior year.

He was primarily relied on to finish dump-offs around the rim but also got some chances to post-up a fair amount and to take a few three-pointers joining the offense late in transition.

On the other end, the Greenville native did well as a rim protector when able to park in front of the goal and flashed some nimbleness defending out in space but doesn’t seem like an option to extend pick-and-roll coverage above the foul line or be asked to cover a lot of space regularly.

He is joining North Carolina for next season and that seems like a good fit, given the nature of his 246-pound frame and that coaching staff’s preference for big men who are able to outmuscle their competition.

RIM PROTECTION

  • Fairly active stepping up to the front of the rim as the last line of defense
  • Quick leaper off two feet to challenge shots via verticality and a capable shot blocker
  • Lengthy enough to block shots on his way down
  • Impressed with his quickness leveraging his length to deflect passes near the rim
  • Didn’t stand out much in terms of making longer rotations coming off the weakside in help defense

PICK-AND-ROLL DEFENSE

  • Approaches the perimeter in more of a hunched down posture rather than bending his knees to get down in a proper stance
  • Showed some nimbleness sliding laterally while defending a face-up big man out at the three-point line in the game against Archbishop Carroll but doesn’t seem like an option to pick up smaller players on switches
  • Can keep pace with smaller ball handlers from the foul line down and proved capable of blocking a shot on the ball on occasion
  • Prone to losing the roll man behind him while dropping back on show-and-recover coverage

POST DEFENSE

  • Hustles to front the post and deny easy entry passes
  • Not as stout holding his ground as his 246-pound frame suggests he should be

OFFENSE

  • Main role within the offense was to finish dump-offs
    • Can go up with power off two feet with time and space to load up
    • Not as adept at finishing through contact as his strong frame suggests he could be
    • Showed pretty decent touch on non-dunk finishes
    • Impressed with glimpses of smart flashing to the front of the rim to create a passing lane for a teammate who had to cut his drive short
  • Got “Perk” touches[3] and also a few other opportunities to post up from time-to-time
    • Was able to set fairly deep post position consistently in high school
    • Basic post game most often looking for a right-handed hook, without much in terms of sleek footwork, fakes and drop-steps
    • Hasn’t shown much feel for feeling double teams, most often attempting to power through the crowd
    • Showed some ambition to face-up on some of these; tried to go on short drives but doesn’t have any sort of a dribble game at this point in his development, most often just attempting to power through his opponent and galloping into a two-foot leap
    • Took a no-dribble jumper at one point but isn’t yet a serious threat on those either
  • Was put in pick-and-roll a little bit
    • Widens his stance to try drawing contact on his picks but hasn’t yet developed much versatility to his screening
    • Showed glimpses of soft and quick hands catching the ball on the move
    • Can play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense
    • Unclear if he’s able to explode in a crowd diving down the middle of the lane
  • Took some open three-pointers while joining the offense late in transition
    • Hasn’t yet developed a lot of fluidity in his release, needing time and space to set his feet and load up his shot
    • Has a low release, launching the ball from out in front
    • Gets little elevation off the ground, seeming like a near set-shot
    • Can get a pretty good arc in his shot
    • Can make wide-open three-pointers from the high school line if left completely unbothered
    • Spaced out to the short corner on occasion but hasn’t yet developed a quick enough trigger to act as a real threat in these instances

[1] According to ESPN

[2] According to USA Basketball

[3] Running a straight post-up for your center in the first possession of the game

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

James Wiseman Scouting Report

CONTEXT

The top-ranked recruit in the 2019 high school class, James Wiseman ended up logging just 69 minutes with the University of Memphis this past season.

And even those 69 minutes were actually a bonus, considering they only took place under the protection of a restraining order a local judge in Tennessee issued against the NCAA’s decision to suspend Wiseman from the start of the college basketball season, something you don’t see very often.

The NCAA ruled him ineligible due to his long-standing connection with head coach Penny Hardaway, who assisted Wiseman’s family during a move from Nashville to Memphis a couple of years ago, so he could then enroll at Memphis East High School, where Hardaway coached before getting hired by the University of Memphis.

The NCAA and Memphis eventually negotiated a 12-game suspension to be served after the team’s loss to Oregon, its most anticipated non-conference game of the season, but soon thereafter Wiseman realized that a prospect of his caliber does not need to jump through hoops for the NCAA’s benefit and left the school to focus entirely on preparing for the draft.

As was the case with Darius Garland last year, missing essentially the entire season is unlikely to hurt his stock in any meaningful way, as ESPN currently ranks him third on its top 100 and buzz of him maybe ending up the top pick depending on which team wins the lottery remains.

That’s the case because Wiseman showed in his time at Memphis East and his appearance at the Nike Hoop Summit a year ago potential to become a pure center who is special enough to escape the league’s deemphasizing of the position over these last few years.

Part of it is physical talent. Wiseman measured at six-foot-11 without shoes, with a seven-foot-four wingspan and a 247-pound frame in the Memphis Pro Day. Those are elite measurements for a 20-year-old. He’s also athletic, in terms of elevating quickly off the ground to make plays at the rim on both ends and flashing some coordination with the ball on face-up drives.

Another part of it is the flashes of skill he’s shown as a passer on the move and as an outside shooter, which suggests he could be useful to assist the ball movement process and/or help space the floor on occasion, though there is no data to support those impressions, given he’s never shot well or recorded all that many assists in the higher profile events he’s participated in.

His three NCAA appearances took place against South Carolina State (which ended up losing 18 of its 29 games in the season), Illinois-Chicago (which ended up losing half of its games) and Oregon (which ended up winning 24 of its 31 games). In those, Wiseman averaged 34.2 points per 40 minutes on 76.3% effective shooting and compiled a 47.8 PER.

But despite those video game numbers, his brief cup of coffee in college really only served to suggest that some of his more ambitious adventures on offense (face-up driving from the top of the key and shooting on the move) will probably be phased out of his game as he moves up through the levels, as his offense was entirely based on attempting to overwhelm the competition with his size around the rim.

Wiseman was able to show more promising traits on the other end, mostly in help defense, where his activity near the rim translated right away, but also in pick-and-roll coverage, especially against Illinois-Chicago, when he was able to extend pick-and-roll coverage far beyond the foul line and contest a pull-up three-pointer effectively, though it’s noteworthy that his least impressive performance was against Oregon, which was by far the best team he played against.

Check the rest of the post at RealGM

Olivier Sarr Scouting Report

Oliver Sarr’s move to Kentucky marks one of the highest profile transfers of the college basketball offseason.

It’s still unclear if the seven-foot center born in Toulouse will be eligible for next season, as his attempt to get clearance without having to sit out one year seems to be based entirely on the fact that Danny Manning was let go at Wake Forest, where Sarr spent his first three years upon moving to the United States after developing during his mid-teens at INSEP – the famous French athletics program.

He averaged 14.8 points per 40 minutes on 55.2% true shooting and 11 rebounds per 40 minutes in 85 appearances these last three seasons but made a bigger leap in prominence after averaging 20.5 points per 40 minutes on 59.6% true shooting and recording a 26.4 PER in 802 minutes this past year[1].

Under Manning’s guidance, the 21-year-old[2] developed as a post scorer and was the focal point of Wake Forest’s interior-driven attack last season – logging 24.2% usage rate and scoring over a third of his makes from two-point range unassisted[3].

Though not usually very physical attempting to set deep position, he manages to get a good enough seal in the mid-post or lower against his age group due to the nature of his 235-pound frame.

Sarr has a patient approach operating with his back to the basket, which can at times look too methodical. He doesn’t often go for quick moves or power moves, rarely attempting to leverage his general size into overwhelming less-physically developed opponents but nonetheless getting the benefit of the whistle quite a bit – averaging nine foul shots per 40 minutes this past season.

It’s more common to see him trying to show his sleek-ish footwork with spin moves, basic turnaround hooks and the occasional running hook. Those moves tend to look mechanical. His touch, with either hand, is decent but nothing substantially above average, as he shot 66.9% on 127 shots at the rim and 40.5% on 126 two-point shots away from the rim last season.

Sarr is also fond of facing up, jab-stepping and attempting a near-standstill outside shot on occasion but hasn’t looked all that promising in that area.

He will at times drive out of these face-ups, as well as on catches out of roll-and-replace and flashing to the foul line. Though Sarr has shown a little bit of coordination putting the ball on the floor in these instances, he is slow and doesn’t have any sort of lift elevating off one foot in traffic, shiftiness to shake his man side-to-side or dexterity pulling up off the bounce.

Sarr will attempt a three-pointer every once in a while out of these roll-and-replace catches but hasn’t yet developed into any sort of a threat to space the floor capably and regularly – missing 36 of his 47 three-point shots over his time in the NCAA.

In pick-and-roll, he’s shown to be a basic screener who hasn’t yet developed advanced techniques but who looks to draw contact and can dislodge on-ball defenders from ball-handlers fairly well when he plants his feet.

Sarr has shown glimpses of soft hands catching the ball on the move but nothing particularly impressive in terms of touch on non-dunk finishes in a crowd. He can play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense but needs time and space to load up before going up strong, yet to prove he can elevate quickly enough and explosively enough while rolling down the middle.

Sarr has flashed some coordination not to crash into the help on hard rolls, as well as some dexterity catching the ball around the foul line, dribbling for balance, and kicking out off engaging a help defender.

He hasn’t yet developed into a real asset helping facilitate for others, though, not on the move, not out of drawing double-teams in the post, not acting as a connective tissue while handling in the high post – assisting on just 8% of Wake Forest’s scores when he was on the floor, with a 0.6 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Sarr is at his most efficient on offense in the offensive glass, where he’s shown a knack for setting inside position and good instincts reacting to the ball quicker than the competition, besides the fact he’s able to reach it at a higher point than most opponents due to his standing reach and the fact he has flashed a surprising quick second jump – collecting 11.4% of Wake Forest’s misses when he was on the floor last season and converting his 29 putback attempts at a 73.1% clip.

On the other glass, Sarr was dominant. He allowed inside position on occasion but proved himself attentive to his boxout responsibilities and played with a little more toughness than he showed in other areas, not just putting a body on whoever was close by but often doing so physically to clear out his rebounding area – collecting 26.1% of opponents’ misses when he was in the game last season.

That edge in holding his ground could also be seen in post defense, where Sarr looked stout, besides keeping in mind to guard with his arms up near the rim to discourage opponents from attempting to finish over him.

Sarr had good moments as an effective presence defending closer to the basket. He’s shown a knack for making preventive rotations that deny space for a ball handler towards driving all the way to the basket and regularly blocked baseline paths to the goal.

Sarr averaged 26.7 minutes per game for a team that allowed opponents to take just 34.5% of live-ball attempts at the rim, a mark that ranked in the top third in the country last season[4].

He is active stepping to the front of the rim as the last line of defense and regularly challenged shots via verticality but at times didn’t seem strong enough to disrupt athletic finishers when they met in the air.

Sarr also doesn’t look quick enough for plays that require multiple efforts, where he’s needed to step up, force a drop-off and then turnaround to challenge his man going up out of the dunker spot.

He hasn’t stood out as a threat to block shots in volume, despite his size and length – averaging just 1.8 blocks per 40 minutes across the last three seasons. Wake Forest allowed 64% shooting at the rim last season, a mark that ranked 317th in the nation, which is not necessarily all on Sarr but doesn’t reflect well on his ability to anchor an above average effort defending the goal.

His average of 4.7 personal fouls per 40 minutes is pretty discouraging too.

He was asked to defend the pick-and-roll with a mix of dropbacks and hedges, while also finding himself switching against smaller players on occasion to make up for an on-ball defender getting stuck on the screen for too long.

On dropbacks, Sarr goes up at most a step beyond the foul line and does not approach the ball handler often, just giving up the pull-up jumper in these instances. When the ball handler doesn’t take that rhythm pull-up, Sarr has shown somewhat unexpected fluidity backpedaling and has proven himself capable of keeping pace with smaller players foul line down to discourage them from attempting to finish over or around him.

Perhaps more surprisingly, Sarr showed pretty good quickness defending the pick-and-pop here and there, able to run stretch big men who need time to load up their jumpers out of their shots more than a few times.

On hedges, he did well influencing ball handlers way high on the perimeter but lacks the speed to recover back in a timely manner.

On switches, Sarr bends his knees to get down in a stance and had some promising possessions flashing some lateral agility against guards who didn’t have much side-to-side quickness. Against these types, he couldn’t necessarily stay in front to force a pull-up but managed to stay attached well enough to discourage them from attempting to finish over or around him.

But despite his pretty decent balance for a seven-footer defending off the bounce, Sarr doesn’t seem like a real option to pick up truly quick smaller guards one-on-one, as those types with real north-south speed managed to just beat him on the first step and get to the goal before he could get to them from behind.


[1] According to sports-reference

[2] DOB: 2/20/1999

[3] According to hoop-math

[4] According to hoop-math

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

Armando Bacot, Jr. Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Armando Bacot, Jr. was the 18th-ranked prospect in the 2019 high school class[1].

In his first year at North Carolina, the six-foot-eight center[2] was part of a team that struggled with injuries and would have gone on to miss the NCAA Tournament, if we had had one. Those absences negatively impacted the team’s competitiveness but did allow an opportunity for those who managed to stay healthy for the most part to explore the space a little bit.

That was the case for Bacot, Jr., who ended up figuring a little more prominently than he was expected to, coming into his freshman season – logging 21.7% usage rate on his 24.4 minutes per game, averaging 15.8 points per 40 minutes and recording a 20.4 PER[3] in his 32 appearances.

The 20-year-old[4] caught one’s attention with his court vision helping facilitate offense on hand-offs and from the elbows, as well as his coordination in a few instances where he drove foul line down.

But most of his attempts materialized on post-ups, putbacks and finishes out of the dunker spot, and his efficiency left a lot to be desired. His .469 effective field goal percentage rates as below average for someone with his role.

It is worth mentioning that Bacot, Jr. played the vast majority of his minutes with another center in the lineup (Garrison Brooks), so many of his attempts were challenged and/or he didn’t have the space to try leveraging his general size (eight-foot-11 standing reach, 232-pound frame) into earning more point-blank chances.

On the other end, the IMG Academy product is athletic and nimble enough to project as an option to defend pick-and-rolls above the foul line but looked uneven guarding out in space in his first 783 NCAA minutes.

He is not as promising as a rim protector, yet to prove quick enough off the ground to block shots rotating off the weak-side, but proved capable of making plays stepping up to the front of the rim as the last line of defense on middle drives.

Bacot, Jr. did not make the cut on ESPN’s way-too-early 2021 top 60 but will enter year two at North Carolina as someone worth keeping track of.

PICK&ROLL OFFENSE

The Richmond, Virginia native stands out as a good screener, who can flip between techniques depending on the goal of the play, as he’s been seen planting his feet and widening his stance to dislodge the on-ball defender with hard screens, setting moving picks to free up shooters or slipping the pick to get a head-start on the roll.

It was hard to see how well he can catch the ball on the move because Bacot, Jr. rarely had the space the dive hard down the middle of the lane. He can finish a lob filling the lanes in transition but needs to load up to go up and doesn’t figure to be an option to play above the rim without time and space to set up his leap.

Bacot, Jr. stood out with his coordination on instances where he caught the ball around the foul line area, took a dribble for balance and attacked the rim, even mixing in a spin move on occasion. He can finish through contact but is not an explosive leaper off one foot in traffic and goes up-and-down, while also struggling some with his touch on non-dunk finishes – converting 60% of his 145 shots at the rim this past season[5], which is a good but not particularly impressive mark.

Bacot, Jr. also showed some glimpses of court vision and quick decision making passing on the move, even flashing a spin move into a wraparound drop-off at one point, which suggests a more creative coach could deploy him as a connective tissue facilitating out of short rolls.

OFFENSE OUTSIDE THE LANE

His passing certainly appears to be the most appealing aspect of his skillset for now, as he was also pretty effective as a hub to keep the offense moving on handoffs and from the foul line area inside the opponent’s zone, as well as spot cutters from the elbow and execute high-low entry passes – assisting on 10.1% of North Carolina’s scores when he was on the floor last season.

He is not a threat to score when he has the ball outside the lane, though. His standstill outside shot is stiff and mechanical at this point of his development. That leads to his man sagging off him to clog passing lanes and being able to set a strong base to chest up if Bacot, Jr. puts the ball on the floor, on top of all the traffic opponents were able to generate against North Carolina – resulting in him turning it over on 15.4% of his possessions.

POST OFFENSE

There were some appealing glimpses of him sprinting up the floor to set early post position but even in the half-court, he proved himself physical enough to set some good seals in the mid-post.

Bacot, Jr. most often attempted to create separation with a jump-stop lowering his shoulders into the opponents’ chest and finish with either a hook with his right hand or short turnaround jumper off the defender’s left shoulder, as he’s yet to show his left hand is an option in these instances.

Bacot, Jr. has shown some potential for more skilled moves when he had a little more space to operate with a more patient approach, exhibiting some fluid-ish footwork to spin around his defender.

His feel for handling double teams caught one’s eye as well.

His touch is underdeveloped, though, as he converted just 27.6% of his 98 shots away from the basket.

REBOUNDING

His most efficient asset for now is his rebounding.

Bacot, Jr. looks to set inside position on the offensive glass, hustles after second chance opportunities and has a seven-foot-one wingspan to rebound outside his area – collecting 11.8% of North Carolina’s misses when he was on the floor this past season.

His second jump and/or his power going up strong in a crowd didn’t stand out much to me, but he managed to covert 60% of his 36 putback attempts.

His constant involvement in scrums also earned him 6.4 foul shots per 40 minutes.

On the other end, Bacot, Jr. showed only so-so attention to his boxout responsibilities but exceled at chasing the ball off the rim – in this area of the game, playing so many minutes with Brooks actually assisted his performance, as he collected 24.7% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor, a mark that ranked fourth in the ACC.

PICK&ROLL DEFENSE

Bacot, Jr. was mostly asked to hedge against the pick-and-roll, venturing way out into the perimeter, with mixed results.

There were times where he managed to cut off ball handlers from activating the other side of the floor but there were others where he just went through the motions and barely influenced the ball handler. His quickness in recovery is also up for debate. He is nimble but doesn’t look quick enough to cover a lot of ground.

On show-and-recover, Bacot, Jr. was sent to blitz ball handlers at the three-point line on occasion and executed with enough urgency to discourage some opponents from aggressive decision making (either as pull-up shooters or drivers), but looked more effective, and generally more comfortable, just buying time for the on-ball defender to make it back in front and then dropping back.

He has shown to be coordinated enough to slide laterally and backpedal to prevent the ball handler from turning the corner right away off the pick but lost the roll man behind him from time-to-time. He is also yet to develop a knack for leveraging his seven-foot-one wingspan into shutting down passing lanes – picking up just 16 steals in his 783 minutes as a freshman.

Bacot, Jr. showed decent hustle to recover to his man in the midrange area while defending pick-and-pops, at times making it back in front as that opponent put the ball on the floor, but struggled to closeout all the way to the three-point line effectively.

His best work was keeping pace with smaller players from the foul line down, as he proved himself capable of staying attached in a short area and blocking a shot defending on the ball.

That should not be mistaken for an inability to stay in front of smaller players out in space. Bacot, Jr. switched onto guards on occasion and worked to move his feet side-to-side but is yet to prove he is an option to guard these types out on an island.

HELP DEFENSE

He is not a quick leaper off two feet coming across the lane off the weak-side, most likely to challenge the shot via verticality. That challenge can be effective, as contact with his 232-pound frame can disrupt some opponents mid-air, or not, as there were instances where Bacot, Jr. failed to angle his body facing the opponent and a poor challenge from the side often led to a score given up or a foul call, as he averaged 4.1 personal fouls per 40 minutes.

He is more efficient as a rim protector stepping up to the front of the rim as the last line of the defense, as he’s proven himself a quick leaper off two feet out of a standstill or one small step and his eight-foot-11 standing reach made more of a difference in his attempts to block a shot, as he averaged 1.8 blocks per 40 minutes.

Bacot, Jr. didn’t stand out as making much of an impact in the hidden areas of the game but the presence of another center in the lineup with him took away some of that opportunity.


[1] According to ESPN

[2] Without shoes, measured at the 2018 USA Basketball U18 Training Camp

[3] According to RealGM

[4] DOB: 3/6/2000

[5] According to hoop-math

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

Obadiah Toppin Scouting Report

First posted at RealGM

CONTEXT

247Sports ranked 558 players coming out of the 2017 high school class. Out of Mount Zion Baptist Christian School in Baltimore, Maryland, Obadiah Toppin was not one of them.

Three years later, the six-foot-nine big man is currently ranked seventh on ESPN’s top 100 at the time of writing and is widely expected to end up a lottery pick in this year’s Draft, whenever that is.

Even if you consider the level of imperfection that surrounds high school rankings, that’s quite the amazing rise to prominence the Ossining, New York native has experienced this past season.

Toppin sat out his first year at Dayton but stepped in right away into a key role as a redshirt freshman – averaging 26.5 minutes per game and logging 25% usage rate for a team that ended in the NIT. As I wrote prior to the season, though the statistical indicators for a breakout into a collegiate star were there, as a pro prospect, Toppin profiled more as a potential star role player who could excel as a inside-outside play-finisher and maybe post-up weaker matchups in a pinch, while his nimbleness made him a promising defender in some areas.

But his sophomore season kind of shattered that projection, for the most part. Toppin averaged 25.3 points per 40 minutes on 68.4% true shooting and 28% usage, leading Dayton to 29 wins in 31 games, and winning Wooden Award and Naismith College Player of the Year honors as a result.

The 22-year-old is still probably more likely to settle in as a play-finisher in the pros rather than the superstar focal point of the offense he was in his final year of college, but reality is that the sheer volume of stats he compiled this past season and the level of dominance he played with, even if not against a particularly tough schedule[1], completely changed the perception of him. His 32.9 PER ranks fourth among players on ESPN’s top 100.

So, now Toppin is viewed as one of those big men who might be special enough to escape the devaluing of the position, especially of those who probably need another big man with them in the lineup to anchor the defense, which is likely to be his case, considering his defense was more exposed and picked apart in year two than it had been in year one.

FINISHING

Toppin exceled as a threat to score around the basket – converting 82.8% of his 203 shots at the rim this past season, with two thirds of his makes assisted[2].

Though he is mostly an up-and-down leaper who didn’t often show particularly impressive flexibility hanging and adjusting his body in the air or a diverse arsenal of finishes around rim protectors, Toppin can score with either hand around the goal on non-dunk finishes and finish through contact.

But the bigger deal is how he proved himself capable of making his way to the basket in a number of ways, which is really what drives the perception of his specialness – the versatility of his scoring.

He is a good screener who looks to draw contact and disrupt the on-ball defender and even flashed some savviness setting some moving picks. On the roll, Toppin can play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense on longer rolls and even flashed some noteworthy explosiveness rising in a crowd down the lane without needing to load up to go up with power.

Perhaps equally as appealing, he has shown great coordination in instances where he has had to catch the ball around the foul line, take a dribble to balance himself and gallop into a two-foot leap in traffic. His body control not to crash into the help stepping up between him and the rim stands out as well.

Besides the pick-and-roll, Toppin is also a threat to score on catch-and-finish’s off cuts, as he’s proven himself a smart off ball mover.

But not on the glass. Though there are highlights of a few thundering putback dunks here and there, he collected just 5.2% of Dayton’s misses when he was on the floor this past season and had just 14 putbacks in 31 appearances.

Toppin shot fairly well and in higher volume from three-point range as a sophomore, which demanded closeouts and opened pathways for him to drive on occasion. He is well-coordinated putting the ball on the floor on a straight line and can go up with power off one foot if left unchallenged. If kept in front, Toppin is nimble enough to weave into a spin move to gain ground. And he has also taken some chances to drive off fake-handoffs.

His 42 unassisted makes at the rim that were not putbacks average out to 1.7 such makes per 40 minutes, which amounts to not insignificant found money.

SHOOTING

Toppin nailed 39% of his 82 three-point shots this past season, though at a pace of just 3.3 such attempts per 40 minutes. He finishes his collegiate career nailing 41% of his 103 three-point shots over his two years in the NCAA, though at a pace of just 2.2 such attempts per 40 minutes.

Toppin has a pretty clean shooting stroke – getting little elevation off the ground and releasing the ball from a low point out in front but setting his feet quickly, either on the hop off a standstill on corner spot-ups or off 1-2 footwork when he’s stepping into the shot, and going through his mechanics quite quickly to be able to get the shot off prior to closeouts more often than not.

Besides basic spot-ups, Toppin has proven himself able to take long-range bombs off the pick-and-pop and relocating off an offensive rebound as well.

He’s pretty smart relocating off the ball to sustain proper spacing on the weak-side and has flashed pretty impressive coordination setting his feet quickly in instances where he was not spaced out but backpedaled his way beyond the arc in a hurry.

His 70.6% foul shooting on 228 free throws in his time at Dayton causes some hesitation regarding how great a shooter he really is at this point of his development, though.

POST SCORING

Toppin did quite a bit of his scoring in the post this past season, which is unlikely to translate to the pros, at least in terms of volume, because most of it was done by him overwhelming outmatched competition.

It’s worth keeping in mind that Toppin, who turned 22 last month, was older and more physically developed than the average opponent he went against.

That said, he was able to show a patient approach operating with his back to the basket and just about enough versatility with his right-handed push shot, his right-handed hook and his nasty hard spin move towards the baseline to gallop into a powerful two-foot leap to project as capable of posting up weaker matchups in emergency situations, especially in alternate lineups bereft of more capable perimeter shot creators. His coordination dribbling into post-ups is a plus in those instances, though his lack of a left-handed hook or a lefty scoop finish might become more of a problem in the pros.

What is certain to become a problem is his so-so feel for double-teams and his iffy decision making trying to thread the needle on a few crosscourt passes with a forest of arms surrounding him. There are times when Toppin impresses with his coordination escape-dribbling against hard double teams but those aren’t as frequent as the highlight clips suggest, as his 0.99 assist-to-turnover ratio attests.

PASSING

But when he can hit the open man on a crosscourt dart to the opposite wing, it looks very appealing.

Toppin has also flashed some impressive quick ball moving out of the short roll and making the extra pass around the horn. He is an asset to facilitate offense out of the elbows as well and can hit a backdoor cutter on occasion too – assisting on 14.5% of Dayton’s scores when he was on the floor this past season.

PICK&ROLL DEFENSE

I had found his defense to be reasonably promising in year one, as Toppin flashed a good deal of fluidity and coordination to move sideways and backpedal while stopping the ball handler from turning the corner or getting downhill right away off the screen in middle high pick-and-roll.

Year two revealed him to be a lot more uneven, especially as Dayton demanded a little more from him, asking him to defend the pick-and-roll in more diverse ways, which he struggled with, for the most part.

When Dayton asked him to venture far beyond the foul line and show hard at the three-point line, Toppin was at times lackadaisical in his approach to the ball handler and would even overplay the level of the screen, giving up the side of the rejection of the pick completely and rarely being able to get back into the play once the ball handler got downhill.

In more conservative drop-back coverage, going up no more than a step beyond the foul line, he didn’t prove capable of making a substantial contribution either. Toppin rarely contested pull-up jumpers effectively and, though he was able to keep pace with ball handlers on a straight-line foul line down, he was not much of a threat to block shots defending on the ball.

But perhaps more concerning for his pro prospects, Toppin didn’t prove himself quick enough to guard both the ball handler and keep the roll man from getting behind him or to shut down pocket passes and bat away lobs, which limits his team’s ability to defend the pick-and-roll two-on-two, which is what the NBA is looking for these days. Especially considering he didn’t show enough footspeed to stop the ball and hustle to contest stretch big men in the pick-and-pop either.

If you can’t guard the pick-and-roll two-on-two and limit help as much as you can, what NBA teams prefer to do then is switch and Toppin also doesn’t figure to be an asset for that strategy either.

On pre-arranged switches, he was a little more active exchanging onto the ball handler, proved himself capable of cutting off dribble penetration at first and even flashed some ability to stay attached to less threatening ball handlers. But quicker and shiftier types didn’t have much trouble just blowing by him when they backed off for a split second and then isolated him out on an island.

Dayton tried to get him a little more out of him by having him hedge way out on the perimeter at times but Toppin wasn’t particularly effectively in those instances either, often struggling to cut off the ball handler from getting to the side of the floor he wanted to get to.

HELP DEFENSE

Toppin is attentive to his responsibilities stepping up to the front of the rim as the last of the defense but has shown only so-so proactivity and quickness coming across the lane in help defense on longer rotations. Keeping a hunched posture off ball, he looked to have heavier feet moving off the ball than I remember seeing from him as a freshman or even that you usually see from him on offense.

Toppin didn’t make much of an impact in the hidden areas of the game either, as you don’t often see him shadowing isolations to intervene at the last second when a teammate gets beat or making preventive rotations that cut off a driver’s path to the basket. He is actually quite detrimental in one of the hidden areas, as he’s often blown by on closeouts and exposes the defense behind him.

Toppin is a quick leaper off two feet out of a standstill to block shots or challenge via verticality standing in front of the goal but hasn’t impressed with his explosiveness covering ground and meeting a finisher at the summit, nor is he quick enough for multiple effort plays where he cuts off the driver and then quickly turns around to contest his man on the dunker spot – averaging just 1.5 blocks per 40 minutes this past season and logging 31.5 minutes per game for a team that ranked 187th in the country in field goal percentage allowed at the rim[3].

PHYSICAL DEFENSE

Toppin is considered undersized for a big man but has a chiseled 220-pound frame and didn’t struggle all that badly in the more physical areas of the game.

He was somewhat soft with his boxouts at times but showed decent attention to his responsibilities putting a body on whoever was close by and chased the ball off the rim quicker or higher than his competition reasonably well – collecting 22% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor this past season.

His struggles in the post were a little more evident, as his high center of gravity keeps from offering much resistance and holding his ground effectively. His propensity to biting on fakes is also a huge negative. But given the fact he profiles as someone who will probably have to be paired up with another big man most of the time, this deficiency might not be that big a problem, as he’ll probably end up hidden on opponents who can’t expose him one-on-one.


[1] Dayton ranked 105th in the country in strength of schedule, according to Ken Pomeroy

[2] According to hoop-math

[3] According to hoop-math

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

 

Filip Petrusev Scouting Report

Filip Petrsuev has been tracked somewhat extensively in this blog, dating back to his time at Montverde.

His second year at Gonzaga saw him rise in prominence, earning West Coast Conference Player of the Year honors while ranking first on the team in usage rate (30.9%![1]) and in PER (30.8, which ranks ninth among players on ESPN’s top 105).

I don’t think he’s developed into a substantially better scorer from year one to year two, with his uptick in production mostly a result of his uptick in opportunity.

Though he’s shown flashes of light footwork spinning his way around stiffer defenders and even a turnaround fadeaway jumper at one point, most of his post moves remain power based, leveraging his 235-pound frame into backing his way for short right-handed hooks/toss-ins. His touch looks iffy at times but Petrusev was more than able to pile up the numbers off his basic but effective approach, and not just against outmatched WCC competition.

Overall, the six-foot-11 center averaged 26.9 points per 40 minutes on 56.2% shooting, while earning 11.1 free throws per 40 minutes, in 33 total appearances this past season. Those numbers stayed pretty strong against tougher competition, as he averaged 22.4 points per 40 minutes on 48% shooting, while earning 9.4 foul shots per 40 minutes, in four appearances against opponents ranked in the Associated Press’s top 25 and 24.7 points per 40 minutes on 53.1% shooting, while earning 10.7 free throws per 40 minutes, in 13 appearances against opponents ranked in the top 100 in RPI[2].

Despite showing a strong preference for not using his left hand at all, Petrusev lit up his opponents as a one-on-one scorer, converting two thirds of his 221 attempts at the rim and 43.6% of his 140 two-point shots away from the basket[3]. His 238 free throw attempts rank him third among players on ESPN’s top 105 and his 146 makes at the rim rank him sixth.

He’s also shown more capability as a shot creator for others, building on top of what he’d done with the Serbian National Team at the U19 World Cup. Besides dealing with double-teams fairly well, Petrusev also handled in the high post a little bit, hitting backdoor cutters and facilitating on high-low actions – assisting on 10.3% of Gonzaga’s when he was on the floor this past season.

The soon-to-be 20-year-old[4] remains a solid screener and decent pick-and-roll finisher at rim level, through contact or sneaking behind the defense but didn’t show much improvement to his explosiveness, still needing to load up to go up with power and unable to go up strong in a crowd.

The most disappointing aspect of his development is actually his regression as a shooter, though. Petrsuev has gone from a capable open shot shooter at Montverde, at times even an aggressive shot taker out of the pick-and-pop, through a shy shooter in his first year at Gonzaga to a now a total non-shooter with the Serbian National Team in the summer and in his second year at Gonzaga.

He took 11 three-point shots in 855 minutes as a sophomore, pretty much all of them in emergency situations. Even worst, Petrusev rarely even looked at the rim when he caught it outside the lane and now launches what looks like a mechanical set shot.

On the other end, his pick-and-roll defense continues to be a mixed bag, at best.

Petrusev shows pretty good mobility going up to the foul line and stopping the ball a fair amount, sliding laterally and backpedaling fluidly to prevent the ball handler from turning the corner right away. He’s even shown some improvement in multiple effort plays that required him to force the pass a couple of steps away from the rim and then turn quickly to contest the roll man.

But the Belgrade native still approaches the pick-and-roll flat-footed regularly and gets blown by when the ball-handler does manage to get downhill. Someone with his level of athleticism would be expected to track these smaller players foul line down and block a shot on the ball from time-to-time.

Most concerning, though, might be his pick-and-pop defense. Petrusev shows no urgency closing out to the stretch big and tends to bite on shot fakes.

His post defense is pretty bad as well. Despite a consistent edge in general size against the level of competition he played in the WCC, Petrsuev didn’t hold his ground consistently and proved to be ineffective contesting most shots.

As is, he remains his most impactful near the basket, where he’s shown to be proactive rotating in off the weakside and stepping up to the front of the rim as the last line of the defense, though not yet the sort of rim protector who makes preventive rotations that discourage the ball handler from driving all the way to the basket in the first place.

Petrsuev is an easy leaper off two feet and challenges shots via verticality reasonably well but did not carry over his strong shot blocking numbers from the summer to the NCAA season – averaging just 1.2 blocks per 40 minutes.

He did excel as a rebounder, though, proving attentive to his boxout responsibilities and chasing the ball off the rim quickly and above the crowd pretty well – collecting 23.3% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor.

To sum up: his volume numbers were really strong but they materialized mostly via post-ups and not in a special enough way to suggest he would get the same touches in the pros, his pick-and-roll scoring was nothing particularly special, he doesn’t take outside shots anymore and his defense was generally suspect. As a result, ESPN currently ranks him 58th in its top 105, at the time of writing.


[1] According to RealGM

[2] According to RealGM

[3] According to hoop-math

[4] DOB: 4/15/2000

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

Francisco Caffaro Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • One of the most prominent graduates of the NBA Academies initiate to date, alongside Gonzaga’s Oumar Ballo (who was already very famous before joining the program) and Tennessee’s Santiago Vescovi;
  • Redshirted his first year at Virginia, after enrolling midway through the season, and was simply a minutes-eater in the backend of the rotation in his second year;
    • Logged just 152 minutes in his 20 appearances as a redshirt freshman, averaging just 7.5 minutes per game;
  • Native of Santa Fé, Argentina;
    • Has 593 minutes of FIBA experience with the Argentinean National Team at the 2015 U16 Americas Championship, 2016 U17 World Cup, 2017 U19 World Cup, 2018 U18 Americas Championship, 2019 U19 World Cup;
  • Turns 20 in May[1];
  • Seven-foot center who profiles as a rim protector and a finisher out of the dunker spot but doesn’t offer any sort of versatility on either end;
    • Flashed a basic post game backing down mismatches with the Argentinean National Team at the 2019 U19 World Cup;
    • 58% true shooting[2] is pretty unimpressive for someone who took the overwhelming majority of his live-ball attempts around the basket;
    • Ranked in the top 10 in block percentage, among qualified players, at the 2019 U19 World Cup[3];
  • Currently unranked on ESPN’s top 105.

INTERIOR DEFENSE

  • Stuck close to the rim for the most part and flashed a basic understanding of how to leverage his general size and his length into challenging shots at basket off stepping up to the front of the rim as the last line of defense but didn’t prove himself a quick enough leaper to act as a regular threat to block shots in volume against the level of athleticism in the NCAA;
    • Five blocks in 150 minutes average out to 1.3 blocks per 40 minutes;
    • Didn’t show much in terms of quickness rotating off the weakside in help defense either;
    • Did have strong numbers at the 2019 U19 World Cup, though: 4.9% block rate ranked ninth in the tournament, among players with a minimum of 100 minutes;
  • So-so post defender: has a 244-pound frame to be able to hold his ground against most matchups but struggled against Vernon Carey, Jr., who is admittedly an elite post scorer within his age group but, nonetheless, the sort of bar Caffaro would need to clear in order to move up to higher levels;
    • Tried to move his feet as well as he could to stay attached but struggled to stay in front of face-up big men one-on-one, getting beat on the first step and showing very little side-to-side quickness;
  • Put in the effort to boxout but was outmatched in terms of athletic ability reacting to the ball off the rim in his first year at the NCAA level;
    • Collected just 11.1% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor this past season, a very poor mark for a seven-footer;
    • Did have strong numbers at the 2019 U19 World Cup, though: 32.6% defensive rebounding rate led the tournament, among players with a minimum of 100 minutes;
  • Was asked to go up to the foul line and drop back in pick-and-roll defense;
    • Showed some nimbleness backpedaling and staying within range to challenge a shot from the foul line down but didn’t seem capable of contesting pull-ups, cutting off dribble penetration or shutting down pocket passes/lobs around his area;
  • Put in the effort to closeout hard to the three-point when he had to but not with any sort of real effectiveness.

OFFENSE

  • Most developed skill for now is his screening;
    • Widens his stance, looks to draw contact, makes it so that his large is tough for on-ball defenders to navigate around, sets moving picks;
  • Hasn’t yet developed into a good option diving down the lane;
    • So-so hands catching the ball on the move, needs to load up to go up, hasn’t shown the ability to play above the rim as a target for lobs, iffy touch around the basket;
    • Did flash a floater off a jump-stop at one point, which might end up his best resource to score out of the pick-and-roll in the near future;
  • Doesn’t play with a ton of tenacity to get a deep seal in the post consistently but does rely on his power to back opponents into short range hooks/toss-ins;
    • Doesn’t have much lift out of a standstill;
    • Didn’t really show much ability to work his man out position with fakes or pivot moves;
    • Showed a strong preference for not going to his left hand under any circumstance;
    • Struggled with his touch around the basket – hit just eight of his 15 attempts at the rim[4];
    • Overwhelmed defenders into drawing fouls an interesting amount (88.2% free throw rate), considering his limitations – earned 15 foul shots in 150 minutes, which average out to 4.0 free throws per 40 minutes (shot well too, hitting two out of every three, which is decent enough for a seven-footer on such a limited amount of attempts);
    • Struggled badly to deal with double-teams or opponents simply crowding his attempts to make a move – turned the ball over on 27.2% of his possessions, which was sky-high in the context of his 12.7% usage rate;
    • Hasn’t yet shown any potential to be able to create for others with his back to the basket – had zero assists all season.

[1] DOB: 5/19/2000

[2] According to RealGM

[3] According to RealGM

[4] According to hoop-math

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

Mamadi Diakite Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • 37th-ranked prospect in the 2015 high school class[1];
  • Redshirted his first year at Virginia, was a key rotation cog the next two (logging 981 minutes in 46 appearances as a freshman and a sophomore) and developed into a prominent player in the final two (posting a 20.4 PER in 68 appearances as a junior and a senior[2]);
    • Averaged 16.7 points per 40 minutes on 55.4% true shooting and 25.9% usage rate this past season;
  • Turned 23 in January[3];
  • Conakry, Guinea native;
  • Six-foot-nine combo big who has toggled between center and forward over the course of his time at Virginia, just filling in wherever needed;
    • Played primarily as a center during the team’s NCAA title campaign in 2018-2019 but spent very little time there this past year, accommodating the rise of Jay Huff as a prominent rotation player;
  • Proved to be very trustworthy executing the scheme, near the basket or away from it, and can help protect the rim;
    • Showed some good stuff as a pick-and-roll defender as well, unproven as an option to switch onto smaller players regularly but offering the versatility to hedge effectively way high out on the perimeter;
    • Contributes to the rebounding process by boxing out diligently but low defensive rebounding rate for a big man raises some concerns over his fit as a full time center in the pros;
  • Basic but effective finisher near the rim and capable floor-spacer on open spot-ups;
    • Posted up quite a bit in college, which is unlikely to happen in the pros, but has at least shown he’ll be capable of posting up mismatches in emergency situations;
  • Currently ranked 94th on ESPN’s top 105.

HELP DEFENSE

  • Exceled as a help defender in a system that demanded attention, awareness and commitment;
  • As a center: was active rotating across the lane from the weakside, stepping up to the front of the rim as the last line of defense against middle drives and shadowing isolations/post-ups to intervene at the last second;
    • Impressed with his quickness in plays that demanded multiple efforts, able to step up to force a drop-off and then turn around quickly to challenge his man going up at the dunker spot;
    • Not an especially explosive leaper off two feet but quick enough to challenge shots via verticality regularly and act as a capable shot blocking threat;
    • Averaged 2.2 blocks per 40 minutes in his 134 NCAA appearances;
  • With a center out there with him: stunted in to help clog driving lanes, rotated in to pick up the roll man and switched on the fly to make up for breakdowns defending off-ball screening actions;
    • Can act as a threat to block shots helping crowd the area near the basket;
    • Not quick enough or instinctual enough to make plays on the ball from the side clogging driving lanes, bat away passes to the roll man or jump passing lanes on the side of the floor regularly – averaging just 0.9 steals per 40 minutes in his time at Virginia;
  • So-so with his closeouts: sprints to the three-point line with urgency, at times managing to stay balanced and defend off the dribble, at others flying by to run the shooter off his shot and opening the gate to the middle of the defense behind him.

PICK&ROLL DEFENSE

  • Was mostly asked to defend the pick-and-roll dropping back to prioritize cutting off dribble penetration or hedging way high out on the perimeter;
    • On dropbacks: showed comfort extending coverage a couple of steps beyond the foul line and impressed with his agility and his nimbleness sliding laterally and backpedaling fluidly to prevent the ball handler from turning the corner right away off the pick;
    • Also on dropbacks: proved coordinated enough to keep pace with smaller players on straight line drives when they did manage to get downhill and flashed some quick leaping ability to block shots defending on the ball from time-to-time;
    • On hedges: showed very good technique with quick slides in one direction and widening his stance to influence ball handlers, cutting off their paths to keep the action one side of the floor and taking away space for them to set up quick long-range bombs;
    • Also on hedges: has long strides to cover ground quickly returning back to his man in a timely fashion, not needing to over-rely on his outnumbered teammates too long, and raises his arms to clog potential passing lanes over the top;
  • Was not asked to pick up smaller players on switches much;
    • Is athletic enough to project as capable of holding his own against less threatening types on a straight line but unclear how well he’d do against smaller guards who can run him through a screen or shake side-to-side one-on-one out on an island;

TOUGHNESS

  • Not very bulky for someone his height but has a chiseled 228-pound frame, able to play physical post defense against the average big man;
  • Attentive to his boxout responsibilities, mixes it up on scrums and gets physical putting a body on whoever is close by;
    • Not all that quick reacting to the ball off the rim himself – collecting just 16.9% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor these last four seasons, which suggests you probably need killer guards and wings rebounders to have him as your center for long stretches.

OFFENSE

  • Very good screener, having already developed advanced techniques to get teammates breathing room;
    • Widens his stance to enhance his screening area, sets moving picks, shows a good feel for re-screening or slipping picks;
  • Doesn’t look like an impressively resourceful finisher at first glance but seems to have a clearer path for scoring as a roll man in the pros and the numbers back up his promise;
    • So-so hands catching the ball on the move;
    • More of an up-and-down leaper;
    • Not an explosive leaper off two feet in a crowd
    • Needs to load up to go up with power;
    • Not very adept at finishing through contact;
    • So-so touch on non-dunk finishes;
    • Nonetheless, converted 70.6% of his 344 shots at the rim in his four years at Virginia, with two thirds of his makes assisted[4];
  • Spaced out to the three-point line a little bit but not enough to project as a legit shooter in the near future;
    • Took just 11% of his live-ball attempts from three-point range, with the overwhelming majority of those shots (55 out of 83) coming in his final year;
    • Capable open shot shooter at this point of his development – nailed 36.4% of his 55 three-point shots this past season, though at a pace of just 2.2 such attempts per 40 minutes;
    • Gets quite a bit of elevation for someone his size, goes through fairly fluid mechanics and fully extends himself for a high release, consistently and comfortably getting his shot over most closeouts, though the touch seems questionable at times;
    • Besides spot-ups, took shots out of the pick-and-pop, relocating off roll-and-replace and even some ambitious attempts sprinting off pindown screens but hasn’t yet developed the footwork and the quickness in his releases for such looks;
    • Hit 72% of his 246 foul shots in his NCAA career, suggesting the basic mechanics and the touch are in place for him to be able to develop into more of a volume shooter in time;
  • Demanded closeouts enough times in his last year to be ale to put the ball on the floor regularly out of triple threat position but didn’t show a particularly promising off dribble package;
    • Doesn’t have any sort of speed with the ball and doesn’t just bully his way through as a wrecking ball driver either;
    • Drives into crowds, struggled with his handle when needed to deal with a crowd between him and the basket and high dribble made him prone to having the ball stripped off him in traffic – averaging 2.6 turnovers per 40 minutes;
    • Showed only so-so coordination when forced to his left;
    • Flashed a floater off a jump-stop but otherwise not a very resourceful finisher off the dribble or much of a pull-up mid-range shooter;
    • Not any sort of a passer on the move – assisted on just 5% of Virginia’s scores when he was on the floor this past season;
  • Posted up quite a bit in college and flashed some versatility to his scoring;
    • Not tenacious enough to get a deep seal consistently but goes through a patient approach operating with his back to the basket;
    • Doesn’t employ power moves against similarly sized players but can put smaller guys into the basket on mismatches;
    • Can back his way into a righty hook or employ head fakes to get his man out of position but truly likes to face-up against stiffer types, able to hit some no-dribble pull-ups off a jab-step when they give him the space or rip-through into a quick first step to go around when they play up on him;
    • Didn’t show much of anything as a shot creator for others and struggled against double teams.

[1] According to ESPN

[2] According to sports-reference

[3] DOB: 1/21/1997

[4] According to hoop-math

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

Onyeka Okongwu Scouting Report

First posted on RealGM

CONTEXT

Onyeka Okongwu is another prospect considered to have risen in prominence, compared to how he was viewed entering his first year of college basketball.

Though he was the 20th-ranked player in the 2019 high school class[1], the six-foot-nine center was not widely projected as a potential one-and-done.

Nonetheless, 858 NCAA minutes later, he’s now ranked sixth on ESPN’s top 105.

Okongwu stood out because of his impact around the rim on both ends, while his combination of coordination and smoothness moving around the floor offers hope he could, soon enough, be about as good out in space too.

But for now, though the potential to become a difference maker is evident, he’s actually quite uneven in pick-and-roll defense, while his post-up scoring doesn’t seem to be up to the level required for getting those types of touches in the pros, so the 19-year-old[2] doesn’t project as a shot creator in the next level. His foul shooting percentage is strong for a pure big man, but his jump-shot is completely theoretical at this point of his development as well.

But even if Okongwu doesn’t develop into a particularly effective player away from the basket, he seems like a safe bet to make a living in the NBA for a while. In this day and age, an average big man is out there, even a stretch big, to help you defend better near the basket, otherwise it doesn’t make sense to play him instead of a smaller player who offers more dynamism on offense and switching ability across the perimeter on defense. And that’s what the Chino Hills native excels at.

HELP DEFENSE

Okongwu impressed with his activity stepping up to the front of the rim as the last line of defense, coming off the weakside in help defense, rotating in to pick up the roll man when he was not directly involved in the pick-and-roll and shadowing isolations to intervene when a teammate got beat.

He is a quick leaper off two feet and a fairly explosive leaper off one foot coming across the lane on longer rotations, capable of acting as a regular threat to block shots in volume or challenging them via verticality effectively.

Okongwu averaged 3.5 blocks per 40 minutes last season and ranked 20th in the NCAA in block percentage. As a star rim protector in college, he elevated the level of the defense around him – averaging 30.8 minutes per game for a team that ranked 25th in the country in opponents’ shooting percentage at the rim[3].

He also managed to make such an impact without putting himself in constant foul trouble, as he averaged just 3.5 personal fouls per 40 minutes.

Okongwu isn’t quite perfect just yet, though.

He hasn’t yet developed a feel for making preventive rotations that deny space towards the rim and discourages dribble drivers from attacking the basket altogether.

Okongwu is also prone to overhelping and chasing hopeless blocks on occasion, besides biting on shot fakes every now and again.

But more concerningly, either his agility or his proactivity in plays that required multiple efforts left something to desired, as he didn’t generally show the quickness needed to step up, cut off a drive and force a drop-off but then turn around and quickly contest his man in the dunker spot. Those types of second effort plays are what makes you an elite rim protector in the pros, where almost every driver can make a pass off engaging the help.

PICK&ROLL DEFENSE

The Chino Hills High School product was asked to guard the pick-and-roll in different ways, but more often than not went a step or so beyond the foul line and dropped back to prioritize cutting off dribble penetration.

He is a little hit-and-miss in terms of bending his knees to get down in a stance approaching the ball handler but impressed with his smoothness and coordination sliding sideways and backpedaling in order to prevent the opponent from turning the corner or getting downhill right away off the pick.

Okongwu can keep pace with smaller players on a straight line from the foul line down and block a shot on the ball or discourage the attempt altogether. He’s shown to be pretty savvy leveraging his length into batting away lobs on occasion and getting his hands into pocket passes, with a few of his 34 steals in 28 appearances materializing in these plays.

But he can’t yet execute other strategies as effectively.

When he trapped or blitzed way out in the perimeter, Okongwu usually struggled to truly influence the ball handler well enough, though his footspeed recovering back to his man is pretty good.

He switched onto smaller players from time-to-time and seemed to prefer staying flat-footed while defending out on an island. Okongwu didn’t show particularly impressive side-to-side quickness to stay in front of shiftier types regularly and doesn’t leverage his strength into containing dribble penetration through contact. But he does manage to stay attached on a straight line pretty well against guards who only go north-and-south and also showed some hustle to recover and try to block a shot from behind when he got shook or beat on the first step.

There was no saving grace against the pick-and-pop, though, as Okongwu often struggled to balance stopping the ball and taking off to contest stretch big men effectively.

INDIVIDUAL DEFENSE

He’s shown only so-so diligence to his boxout responsibilities and not particularly impressive quickness reacting to the ball off the rim – collecting 18.5% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor. His average of 7.0 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes ranks 21st among 36 big men on ESPN’s top 105.

Despite his chiseled 245-pound frame, Okongwu is also only so-so at holding his ground in the post. But he uses his length to deny easy post entries regularly and guards with his arms up to try walling up the rim when the ball does get entered.

FINISHING

Okongwu profiles as a rim runner in the pros but didn’t have a ton of opportunities to roll hard to the basket cleanly in college, due to Southern California’s poor spacing, as only 54.1% of his makes at the rim were assisted[4].

It was fairly common to see him roll into a post-up or a face-up and he’s shown to be reasonably resourceful in these instances; able to spin into a floater off a jump-stop or work his way into a quick hook if he needs to deal with traffic, while impressing with his body control maneuvering his way through tight spaces and managing not to charge into the help regularly.

But the most noteworthy aspect of his approach when forced to cut his rolls short was the glimpses of appealing court vision he’s shown on quick kickouts on the move – assisting on 8.4% of Southern California’s scores when he was on the floor last season, even if at a lousy 0.54 assist-to-turnover ratio.

His coordination also shined through in instances where he needed to catch the ball around the foul line, take a dribble to balance himself and gallop into a two-foot leap in traffic.

In the pros, Okongwu should be able to roll hard down the middle more often and figures to excel as a pick-and-roll finisher even more.

He is a decent screener who widens stance, looks to draw contact to dislodge the on-ball defender from the ball-handler and flashes decent feel for re-screening when needed.

Okongwu is an explosive leaper off two feet to play above the rim as a target for lobs sneaking behind the defense and has flashed the ability to go up strong without needing to load up, which suggests he might also be a threat to throw down lobs going up in a crowd in the middle of the lane.

He struggled some on non-dunk finishes when the lob was poorly tossed and he had to adjust his body in the air but generally showed soft touch around the basket when he got to go up and down – converting his 186 attempts at the rim at a 72.6% clip.

He doesn’t play with particularly impressive force looking to establish inside position in the offensive glass but his tenacity mixing it up on scrums to come up with second chance opportunities is noteworthy – collecting 12.5% of Southern California’s misses when he was on the floor. His average of 4.3 offensive rebounds per 40 minutes ranks 10th among the 36 big men on ESPN’s top 105.

Besides acting as a regular scoring threat on tip-ins and tip-dunks, his second jump is quick, and he can gather and go back up with power, even if surrounded – converting his 45 putback attempts at an 81.2% clip.

POST OFFENSE

Okongwu is not very physical trying to establish deep position but managed to set a good enough seal more often than not in college.

He has a patient approach operating with his back to the basket and pretty light feet to work his way around the defender. Though he usually looks to back down his man to create separation for a basic right-handed hook, Okongwu mixes in some head fakes and pivot moves on occasion – creating 27 unassisted makes at the rim that were not putbacks in 28 appearances.

He seems to have a strong preference for going to his right hand but has gone to his left hand enough times to keep the defender honest, which makes his most elaborated pivot move faking left then turning right reasonably effective.

His touch seems to be beyond skepticism in these instances, as he converted a solid 41.5% of his 94 two-point shots away from the basket.

Okongwu has shown flashes of facing-up and launching long passes to the opposite court from time-to-time, and he can facilitate on handoffs a little bit, but nothing that suggests particularly special court vision as a shot creator for others.


[1] According to ESPN

[2] DOB: 12/11/2000

[3] According to hoop-math

[4] According to hoop-math

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

Vernon Carey, Jr. Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Vernon Carey, Jr. has been a dominant scorer and rebounder immediately upon setting foot in a college basketball court.

The sixth-ranked player in the 2019 high school class[1], he is averaging 28.2 points per 40 minutes on 60% effective shooting and 13.8 rebounds per 40 minutes while posting a 33.7 PER[2] in his first 19 appearances at Duke.

As a six-foot-nine center with a 270-pound frame, Carey has a physical advantage pretty much every night against this level of competition and has relied on his strength to score in volume while operating out of the post.

He’s done a little bit of finishing out of the pick-and-roll and used to be aggressive launching a lot of three-point jumpers in high school, so there’s potential for him to adapt to a more modern style of offense in the pros eventually, but the team that ends up drafting him will probably do so with a more throwback approach in mind.

Nonetheless, the biggest concern surrounding his fit for the NBA regards his ability to defend out in space. The 18-year-old[3] is not always a traffic cone, flashing some decent lateral quickness to stop the ball on occasion, but simply does not seem suited to be asked to defend pick-and-rolls above the foul line in any way.

That skepticism about his offense translating to the pros in the near future and his potentially crippling limitations on defense in a more widen open setting help explain why someone with such an impressive statistical profile ranks only 18th on ESPN’s top 100, at the time of writing.

POST OFFENSE

Carey plays physical trying to get a deep seal more often than not and has more regularly relied on a basic approach with his back to the basket – creating separation for short layups/hooks/tosses with a couple of power moves.

When he has expanded his modus operandi, Carey has flashed sleek footwork on spin moves and drop-steps. He has also impressed with his nimbleness galloping into two-foot leaps in tight spaces when crowded and his touch has been not just superb around the rim but also pretty good over length from the in-between area.

The Davie, Florida native has finished his 148 attempts at the rim at a 72.2% clip and his 48 two-point looks away from the basket at a 39.6% clip[4] so far, while also earning 11.1 free throws per 40 minutes.

There are signs Carey could be made less effective if guarded more intelligently, though: he doesn’t have a lot of lift, hasn’t really managed to just power through contact as regularly as you’d expect from someone with his general size, doesn’t go to his right hand at all (preferring to rely on off-balance lefty tosses if turned to the opponent’s left shoulder) and hasn’t shown much dexterity handling double teams (3.2 turnovers per 40 minutes).

MODERN OFFENSE

He has been put in the pick-and-roll some, though not a lot, mostly in double-screen pick-and-rolls at the top of the key designed to confuse the three defenders directly involved and get him a free run to the rim.

Carey seems to need to be aided by strategy because he hasn’t shown to be a threat to play above the rim as a target for lobs diving hard down the lane. He is a decent screener who widens his stance to try disrupting the on-ball defender but needs time and space to go up strong off two feet upon catching the ball.

A very ambitious shooter in high school, Carey has not spaced out to the three-point line a whole lot in college – attempting just nine three-point shots in 456 minutes so far. He has hit four of those but remains slow to set his feet and load his shot, while his 59.8% foul shooting on 127 free throws also raises doubt if the touch is in place to serve as a foundation for a real jump-shot to be built upon.

Carey has also dialed down the face-up drives quite a bit compared to his time at NSU University School, when he showed a strong preference for operating as a wrecking ball driver. He hasn’t developed a quick first step, any sort of side-to-side shake or any sort of speed with the ball but can maintain his balance and his momentum forward through contact thanks to his massive frame.

Carey can’t attack the basket with any explosiveness elevating off one foot in traffic but can unleash lefty scoop finishes and runners if forced to deal with a rim protector parked between him and the basket.

Though he hasn’t impressed with his court vision handling double teams in the post, Carey has helped facilitate offense hitting diagonal cutters on pre-arranged reads with his back-to-the-basket and stepping out to the perimeter for high-low post entries to Matthew Hurt or Cassius Stanley – assisting on 8.4% of Duke’s scores when he’s been on the floor this season.

DEFENSE

He’s done reasonably well defending closer to the rim.

Carey steps up to the front of the basket as the last line of defense a fair amount and has shown to be a quick enough leaper off two feet when well positioned to leverage his speculated nine-foot standing reach into making plays on the ball – averaging 2.9 blocks per 40 minutes. He has also proven himself a willing charge drawer in these instances, though his quickness on longer rotations coming off the weakside in help defense is still up for debate.

Other than that, Carey has rebounded really well on a team that needs him to. He’s been attentive to his boxout responsibilities, physical with them when he needs to be and reacted to the ball better than what he had shown in high school – colleting 26.4% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor.

But away from the basket, Carey has struggled. Virginia Tech and Louisville, in particular, really exposed his inability to defend out in space.

Duke has asked to go above the foul line against the pick-and-roll and though there have glimpses of decent lateral movement to prevent the ball handler from just turning the corner right away off the screen, Carey mostly doesn’t have the agility needed to stop the ball and prevent the roll man from getting behind him, making Duke unable to try guarding pick-and-rolls two-on-two.

That lack of footspeed backpedaling also makes him unable to stay attached to smaller drivers as they get downhill.

When forced to defend faced-up big men or switch onto wings out in the perimeter, Carey tries to get active with his feet but can’t bend his knees to get down in a space, often gets beat on the first step out on an island and is unable to try leveraging his strength into absorbing contact to contain dribble penetration through contact. He also struggles to closeout to the three-point line effectively.


[1] According to ESPN

[2] According to sports-reference

[3] DOB: 2/25/2001

[4] According to hoop-math

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara